Paticca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+”Sama+uppāda”

Revised November 3, 2018

“Yō paticcasamuppādam passati,
so Dhammam passati.
Yō Dhammam passati,
so paticcasamuppādam passati”

One who sees paticcasamuppāda
sees the Dhamma.
One who sees the Dhamma
sees paticcasamuppāda..

(Mahā­hatthi­pa­dopa­ma Sutta (MN 28); at the end)

Therefore, it is critical to correctly understand what paticca samuppāda is. It explains how  causes lead to effects. NOTHING in this world happens without a cause; see, the next post for details: “Paticca samuppāda – Overview“.

  • Here is the pronunciation of paticca samuppāda:

Paticca samuppāda is translated to English as “Dependent Origination”. This does not convey the true, complete meaning of the phrase. It is better to just keep the same name and understand what it means.

  • The closest English translation is “Willful attachment leading to an existence of similar kind”.

1. Paticca = pati + icca;  here “pati” is bonding, and “icca”  is liking.

  • Thus paticca is “bonding to something willingly” or “get attached to something through a liking for it “.
  • This bonding depends on one’s gati (habits and likings), which in turn are due to deep-seated āsavas (cravings).
  • There are many posts at the website on this key Pāli term: “gati“. One can get a list of relevant posts by typing “gati” in the “Search” box at top right.

2. Samuppāda = “sama” (same or similar) + “uppāda” (generation), i.e.,  an existence (bhava) of similar quality or kind.

3. For example, when we generate very powerful hateful thoughts about a person we could be in the mindset of an animal. At that moment, we may even act like an animal, hitting and clawing at that person if things really get out of hand. Even if we may not act physically we will have that mindset.

  • Thus in that moment we generate a gati corresponding to “bhava” or existence similar to an animal in our mind, which in turn leads to grasping a corresponding “bhava“. Then “bhava paccayā jāti” leads to a corresponding “jāti” or birth.
  • Because we got “bonded” to that situation via hateful thoughtful thoughts, we generated a corresponding “bhava” in our mind. What is generated is similar to what caused it: cause and affect. As we keep generating same kind of “bhava“, that leads to forming “gati” or habits. All these are inter-connected.

4. Now if we keep incurring such situations frequently, i.e., get in to fights with that person (or with others) in similar manner, we will be building up that “bhava” and this could lead to the formation of very potent kamma seeds (“Sankhara, Kamma, Kamma Beeja, Kamma Vipaka“).

  • Furthermore, it becomes a “gati” as well (see, “Sansaric Habits and Asavas“). Then it is easier to get into such situations, and a vicious cycle starts leading to that gati to take hold.

5. Now we combine the two terms: paticca samuppāda” means “attachment to something leading to the generation of  corresponding  “bhava” (and thus gati).

  • The establishment of a bhava in turn leads to a corresponding jāti or birth.  
  • Stated in a simple way: “when one gets attached, it sets up likelihood of a new birth of similar characteristics”. For example, when someone acts with greed out of habit, he/she is prone to act that way during the lifetime. Furthermore, it could be manifested in a stronger way in a future birth by being born as a  peta (hungry ghost).

6. Therefore, the establishment of an “existence” (bhava) could be two ways:

  • One could be exposed to a similar situation during the current life. For example, the “gati” formed via above mentioned “fights” with other people, will tend to draw oneself to a similar outcome even with the slightest provocation. This is a “pavutthi bhava” (and jāti) that lasts for a short time during current life.
  • If this hateful “gati” becomes deeply ingrained and becomes a potent kamma seed, that could be drawn to the mind at the dying moment. That could lead to a hateful “uppatti bhava” in the next existence, as an animal or even in the niraya (hell).
  • Here one should also be able to make a distinction between “bhava” (existence) and “jāti” (birth). For example, the potential of an uppatti bhava may give rise to many births until the kammic energy in that kamma seed is depleted; see, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein“.
  • That is why, even though the human bhava is RARE, one may be reborn a human many times at a stretch; only those who were born in human in previous life (or a few lives) may be able to remember those lives; see, “Evidence for Rebirth“.
  • Different types of paticca samuppāda cycles are discussed at: “Paticca Samuppāda Cycles“.

7. By perceiving an illusory happiness, we get ourselves willingly attach to pleasurable things. We also attach to things via hate, and the root cause for that is an attachment to something related.

  • For example, we get “attached” to a person with hate, if that person is blocking our access to something that we like: We keep thinking how bad he is, etc.
  • Thus attachment is possible with greed or hate. This is what “tanhā” (in Sinhala, “තැනට හාවීම”) means; see, “Tanhā – How We Attach Via Greed, Hate, and Ignorance“.

8. Ultimately, both greed and hate arise due to ignorance. Ignorance of not knowing the unfruitful nature of “this world” of 31 realms, i.e, “anicca, dukkha, anatta“.

9. There is no one, or no external force, keeping us bound to “this world” of 31 realms; see, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma“.   Just like an octopus grabbing its prey with all eight legs, we willingly cling to things in “this world” of 31 realms filled with suffering.

  • Unless we see the true unfruitful and even dreadful (in the lower four realms) nature of ‘this world” by comprehending “anicca, dukkha, anatta“, we will not let go of it.

10. This is a good example of the confusion caused by translating Pāli to Sanskrit and then back to English or Sinhala; see the explanation of Pratittyasamutpada (the Sankrit word for Patticca samuppāda) on Wikipedia:

Pratītyasamutpāda

  • I think you will agree that it is confusing at best, with multiple possible meanings.
  • On the other hand, for someone knowledgeable in Pāli or Sinhala the meaning is very clear in the name itself: pati + icca sama+uppāda.

11. Please read, “Habits and Goals“, “”Sansaric Habits and āsavas“, and “The Way to Nibbana – Removal of āsavas “, before reading further postings as they appear below. One should also analyze one’s own life experiences to see whether they are compatible with this explanation. This is part of vipassanā (insight)mediation.

  • If one is truly interested in Buddha Dhamma, it is critical to understand Paticca samuppāda.
  • How our thoughts arise AUTOMATICALLY due to gati is discussed in the post, “How Are Gathi and Kilesa Incorporated into Thoughts?“.
  • Even though the underlying concept seems to be simple, paticca samuppāda can run very deep. In the “Mahā­nidāna Sutta (DN 15)“, the Buddha admonished Ven Ananda not to take it lightly.

Next, “Paticca samuppāda – Overview“, ………….

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